- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A host of young and inexperienced quarterbacks are hoping to help the Big 12 Conference regain some momentum after being shut out of the College Football Playoff last season.

The search for a new starter has been the talk of spring camp at a number of Big 12 schools. Only two of the10 teams have experienced starters that have the job locked down for next season.

“In this league, you’re going to have some decisions to make at (quarterback) because you’re going to get a lot of great prospects, a lot of kids that deserve playing time,” said Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury, who won’t decide between Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes until August.

TCU will be the presumptive favorite in the Big 12 thanks in part to senior Trevone Boykin, who blossomed into a star in 2014.

Baylor, the team most likely to be picked second in the preseason, will turn to junior Seth Russell to replace departing star Bryce Petty. Russell, who will inherit an offense loaded with playmakers, averaged nearly 10 yards an attempt as the backup in 2014.

Spotty quarterback play was one of the reasons the Big 12’s more storied teams, Texas and Oklahoma, failed to look like powerhouses in 2014.

Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had his moments as a freshman last season. But he was dismal in a bowl game loss to Arkansas, throwing for just 57 yards on 25 passes.

Swoopes was pushed by redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard during spring ball. While Swoopes did what he could to hang onto the job, it appears as though Heard still has an outside shot at starting the season opener at Notre Dame.

“It’s a great problem to have that competition. But at some point the decision has got to be made,” second-year Texas coach Charlie Strong said. “I don’t spend too much time wondering who it’s going to be because at the end of the day, somebody’s going to step forward.”

The Sooners struggled behind Trevor Knight, whose hold on the starting job slipped after an injury and a terrible bowl game performance to close out 2014.

He’s not the only Big 12 veteran angling for the top job in Norman.

Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield threw for a team-high 176 yards in Oklahoma’s spring game, though he was also picked off twice. Cody Thomas, who started three games in Knight’s absence a year ago, also remains in the mix.

“I’ve seen our quarterbacks, through the entire 15 practices, improve, make plays that are there, on and on to give me a lot of encouragement,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops about what might be the most wide-open competition of his long tenure in Norman. “I still believe in the system we have offensively, that it’ll be quarterback friendly and these guys will be capable of doing really well in it.”

Like Baylor, West Virginia will likely turn to a seasoned and promising backup in Skyler Howard.

Though Howard’s accuracy was spotty in 2014, his ability to find the end zone without putting the ball up for grabs wasn’t. Howard threw for eight TDs with no picks in relief of Trickett and further solidified his position this spring.

Oklahoma State feels like it has finally settled on a starter in Mason Rudolph, who helped the Cowboys stun Oklahoma to earn a postseason bid before throwing for 299 yards in a bowl win over Washington.

K-State’s Joe Hubener might have a slight edge over sophomore Jesse Ertz after serving as Jake Waters’ backup, while rival Kansas has yet to decide between Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart.

“The fortunate thing we have is we’ve got a couple of guys that have played a lot of ball here already, which is great. But they haven’t played it in our system,” said first-year Kansas coach David Beaty. “They’ve picked things up fast, and it’s been good watching them mature.”

The most stable quarterback situation outside of TCU is at Iowa State, which went winless in the Big 12 in 2014.

Sam Richardson will be a three-year starter next fall, and if he can stay healthy he has a chance to be among the league’s best quarterbacks.


Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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